August 16, 2004


Francis Fukuyama’s piece in the Summer issue of The National Interest has gotten the interest of Steve Clemons and Matthew Yglesias. As Yglesias notes, there is much in the article that is worth reading. It does remind one that a lot of the power elite in this country still refuses to confront the fact that Iraq is falling apart, that the administration did an egregious job in designing post-war policy, that many of the problems we face today were foreseen, and that the opposition we faced from traditional allies was not simply a matter of those countries being obstinate. That these things are not (and perhaps politically cannot be) acknowledged is extremely troubling if we hope to learn anything from the current crisis, and improve the situation at hand. Add on to that the fact that our failures in Iraq will make it even more unlikely that Americans will be supportive of nation-building in the future (not that they thought much of nation-building before Iraq), and we are left with a key thrust of our foreign policy being completely unhinged from reality.

Fukuyama concludes his article by calling for some basic changes in tactics in American foreign policy. We need to be willing to pursue basic diplomacy and coalition-building, and end a style of foreign policy bullying that is breath-taking by even American (or for that matter French) standards. We need to get it through our skulls that other countries, even our closest allies don’t equate their national interest with ours. We need to build institutions within and between governments that will foster the types of norms and values we want to spread around the world. I agree with most of the points in this piece, and with these recommendations. Both Neocons and non-Neocons would be well served by pursuing these changes.

But on a central point this article comes up short. Fukuyama spends a considerable amount of time criticizing Charles Krauthammer for being exceedingly vague in laying out the conditions under which the United States should pursue a policy of regime change. However, he offers no proposed solution to this question – Under what circumstances should our Idealism trump the usual tenets of Realism? Fukuyama’s advice on needed changes in the means of our foreign policy is a welcome addition to the national debate. But as to the desired foreign policy ends of the Neocons, those remain as vague as ever. That vaguery in and of itself makes one wonder about the degree to which their idealism is sincere, and the degree to which it masks other motives and aims.

Posted by armand at August 16, 2004 09:57 AM | TrackBack | Posted to Politics

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